In response to Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt.

All the Darkness – #writephoto

What the hell, he muttered. And it was the equinox, after all.

He’d thought that he would give this one a miss; but then came the drive to his mother’s house and the usual time-slip as the joys and labours of caring took far more time than they should.

Sometimes, he would drive the first part of the way home to Cumbria on the A-roads, swooping over the moors with his favourite rock tunes playing, reliving his youthful days when they all used to come up here, laughing and joking in two beat up old Minis on the way to the pub.

Sometimes, he’d do it for them, just to send a flash of a loving and remembered message. He’d lost touch with most of them. He suspected a couple were dead. Life just did that – passed though at light-speed, convincing you, for a while, that you had the star role, and then dumping you, staggered and gasping for air, at some lay-by as you watched the young-bloods race past on the moorland roads over which you used to be the man.

Which is probably how he ended up, parked at forty-five degrees to the norm, looking up at the little town’s welcome sign with the old beacon in the background, wondering…

Forty five degrees to the norm, he thought, looking out of the car at the crooked view. That would be a good name for a club of the old vets–those that were left. See, he thought loudly, calling them. I’ll start it off, from here, right now… Something creatively stupid, in a wonderful way, four times a year.. and today’s the Equinox!

The bag from the weekend was in the boot of the car. He had everything he needed…

Up above, there was an old road. It didn’t go anywhere but the ruined gardens near to top of the hill. But that was close enough; and that wasn’t really the top of the hill. Right on the top – and the reason the town had a model, below – was a Beacon Point from the English Civil War, far back in time when the Royalists, who had support and strongholds in these parts, needed to alert each other to the approach of Cromwell’s feared Roundheads. The sixteen-forties were a dangerous time, and the blazing fires, strategically placed on such hills, formed a chain of both warning and defiance.

Defiance, he thought, twenty minutes later, and beginning to sweat, as he forced his legs to push him, ever faster, up the hill. Used to cycle up here as a lad. Didn’t get out of puff, then.. come on, bloody limbs, work faster, he said, gasping and laughing at the image of the abandoned and warm, white car, far below. Late enough, already, he chortled, breathless. What’s another forty-five minutes…

The old stone tower that marked the site of the Beacon was waiting in the gloom. Thankfully, no-one else was around. Me, mate; how you been? he said, breathless, resting his hands on the Millstone Grit, not letting himself rest, but seeking the old toe-holds that were known to very few. A tingle ran up his spine as he found that most of them were still there. Not really vandalism, he rationalised, out loud, choking for breath. We didn’t tell anyone else, did we!

Hope you’re watching, Tank, Chanie, Huckie, Barlow, Cloughie, he said as he lit the flame. This is for you…

Once he’d done it, he sat for a time looking down at his handiwork, marvelling at the mild night.

His shoes were damned near ruined by the time he scraped down the stone face and jumped back onto the muddy grass.

It took him a lot less time to get back down to the car. He didn’t look back – not then. Still sweating from his exertions, he calmed himself before starting the engine and driving over the dark road with the thousand potholes that prevented most drivers from using the old high route that went nowhere… nowhere but the Beacon and the top of the derelict gardens.

Soon, he was back in the little town and turning off the main road to park, this time deliberately, at the sign of the Beacon, at forty-five degrees to the norm. He didn’t want to look up, didn’t want to see his folly written in darkness.

When he did, he swore with delight. Bloody hell! Who’d have thought, he whispered to the windscreen. Tears formed in his eyes as he stared at the tiny, distant, flickering light of the single candle he had placed and lit, jammed into a gap of the small tower’s crenellations.

All the darkness in the world… and I can still see you…


©Copyright Stephen Tanham, 2016.


12 Comments on “All the Darkness – #writephoto

  1. What a fabulous piece of writing, loved it, absolutely loved it.



  2. Pingback: All the Darkness by Steve Tanham #writephoto | Sue Vincent – Daily Echo

  3. Pingback: Photo prompt round-up – Beacon #writephoto | Sue Vincent – Daily Echo

  4. I really enjoyed this, Steve. I love the British-ness of it. That paragraph about driving on the A-roads to Cumbria ‘swooping over the moors with his favourite rock tunes playing, reliving his youthful days when they all used to come up here, laughing and joking in two beat up old Minis on the way to the pub’ brought back memories – although I’ve never lived in Cumbria. I love the act of placing the lit candle in the tower in memory of the past and friendships.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kim. I recognised the photo – taken in Horwich near Bolton, so I could add a lot of real detail to the story. We did, indeed, use the A-roads in that way, so it was partly autobiographical. Rivington, as that stretch of Lancashire’s countryside Is generically known, is a lovely set of hills and did indeed host the Civil War beacon, as described. Come visit! Thank you for commenting, and in such lovely detail.

      Liked by 1 person

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